Thursday, September 04, 2008

death & the hospital.

The hospital does things to people. It makes sick people sicker instead of encouraging healing. It causes people to revert back to childhood, appearing psychotic when the sun goes down (interested? Look up “sun downing”). And under one industrialized metal roof, it tends to highlight the joys & tragedies of life.

I was exhausted this weekend. And despite my physical exhaustion from a week of emotional transition, it seemed I was more than emotionally exhausted.

My patients came from different backgrounds. Enjoyed their place in different socioeconomic brackets. Regularly ate different foods for breakfast—the man in room 207 preferred pancakes & grits while the woman in room 368 insisted on eggs with salt & pepper beside one plain piece of white toast. And most of all, my patients made me open my textbooks to vastly different chapters with the slew of ailments they were admitted for.

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t consider myself a normally emotional person. I was able to detach my frontal lobe when necessary, reattaching it only every once-in-awhile to let out a good cry…or something of the sort. And I could say that it is all jon’s fault—that he is the one who makes me cradle my frontal lobe like its my beloved teddy bear. That he is the one that is causing all this emotional turmoil when I arrive at work each day—he is responsible for the growing collection of wet Kleenex in my pocket when I leave patients rooms with tear-stained cheeks. That I fell in love with him, causing my girl-crying-hormones to come out of hiding.

But if I blamed it all on him, I’d be lying to myself.

Because in addition to all those things that the hospital does, it also stirs up my emotions & leaves my brain spinning in utter exhaustion each night when I try to close my eyes. I try to imagine the patients in their homes. The smells. The sights. The sounds. I try to imagine them surrounded by loving family members, instead of the silence that pierces their hospital rooms. And I try to dream up all the beautiful places they’ve been, the fulfilling lives they’ve lead, and the belief that sustains my imagined faith for each one of them. But sometimes, my imagination only takes me so far….

And when I try to imagine farther, it ends up being make-believe.

I lie in bed at night & try to dream up fairytale lives for my patients in an effort to quell my own uneasiness about their transition from life to death. Inevitably, I’ve started thinking more & more about my own death; the death of my family members, my parents, my husband. My mind spins for what seems like hours…at which point I reach for the almost-empty Kleenex box that was newly opened last Sunday. And eventually I fall asleep to a pillow, moistened by my own tears of fear; evidence that despite my hard-knock fa├žade, these realizations have biopsied the core of who I am…and what I believe.

I’ve never really faced the reality of my own death before. And although rather morbid, this Internal Medicine rotation is not only challenging me medically, it is also challenging me spiritually. It is causing me to ask the hard questions—the questions that, three weeks ago, I thought I had solid answers to. It is causing me to reflect on my own life and realign my priorities. And it is causing me to engage my own human reflex by scooping up my feelings & thoughts & priorities & life & putting them in my OWN “safe bag”—one guarded from negativity & the prospect of tragedy infecting my household.

Try as I might to resist sleep at night, God opens my eyes each morning with a new reminder that HE is ultimately in control. And when my feet hit the floor, God reminds me that HE has lessons to teach me this year. When my eyes focus & I sit down with my Bible, HE has consistently given me verses like this each morning:

“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God,

an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling,

because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.

For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened,

because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling

so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose

and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Therefore we are always confident and know

that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.

We live by faith, not by sight…

so we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it

…Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,

the old has gone, the new has come! "

-2 Corinthians 5: 1-7, 9, 17

I know God is trying to teach me to LET GO. To GIVE IT UP. And to TRUST HIM. But as you well know, TRUSTING is my biggest struggle.

Perhaps this is the year of breakthrough.

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